Hidden in the hills of Lenore/Oak Lake, Linda Alexander has turned a former dairy barn into the haven for her creativity, specializing in barn board crafts. It is here that a small group of friends, the Barn Babes, gather to inspire one another with hand-made items.
“When we first started as Barn Babes, there were three of us – my sister Melanie Alexander, Susan Bothe and myself,” says Alexander. “Now we have Joan Brown with us too. “
One of the key features in Alexander’s workshop, besides the sign ‘Barn Babes’, is thelarge table complete with a table saw, installed with the help of Trevor Ellis, Alexander’s oldest son.
Alexander did much of the work of turning the milk parlour into a workshop with tidy rows of tools, counters and a colourful red retro-fridge.
In the front lobby, even on a cold winter evening, it’s toasty. The former barn office has been renovated and decorated with cedar wood that Alexander’s younger son, Shawn, re-purposed. There are big windows and a large sink.
“My sink came from my girlfriend, Helen, so I call it ‘Helen’,” says Alexander. “The mirror came from Glen Bailey who had a dresser up in the loft. I tore it apart put a rope around it.” Working with mirrors and repurposing wood from many sources are one of her specialties.
A rustic multi-suite birdhouse dominates the workshop décor - a summer project for a class at Oak Lake Fair.
“This birdhouse, I built this summer. It was quite n ordeal, actually. It was a bet against a really good friend.” She and Omar Champigny challenged each other to create the winning birdhouse. This had the community’s interest, but, their creations turned out so different, they were in different classes and neither lost.
She said of her competitor’s birdhouse, “Omar’s was an elevator, but he didn’t know what I was making. And I kind of went over the tope because I knew he was good,” she laughs.
How did Alexander develop her skills and love of crafting?
“I don’t know, I don’t sleep well,” she says half joking. “I’ve always been kind of crafty.”
In the workshop, large ornate Christmas wreathes have given way to barn board mirrors.
Day by day, Alexander works with her life partner, Duncan McKinnon, operating an oilfield battery, checking pump jacks and such.
“I love the oilfield. I worked for Tundra for about 10 years in the south field,” she says. But she also loved the Holsteins that used to fill the milk parlour years before that, and she’s a horse lover, too.
Crafting is therapeutic for Alexander, on her own or with others. The Barn Babes get together when they can. She says, “It’s earthy. It’s a wonderful place to work in now. We can have so many laughs. …
“It’s a very good thing that I work with barn board,” she laughs uproariously, “and not really good wood. It’s kind of fun.”